Barbara Wojtyla: An Insider’s Look at the Leica Oskar Barnack Award

We are excited to introduce another member of the Leica Internet Team. No it’s not her birthday, but Barbara Wojtyla plays an important role in one of the premiere events of the year: the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. Barbara worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put together the competition’s newly redesigned website. As entries have already started pouring in from around the world, we got Barbara to give us the inside scoop on the award.

Q: Barbara, what’s your role at Leica Camera and specifically with the Oskar Barnack Award site redesign?

A: I work as part of the Leica Internet Team and I’m responsible for the development and realisation of some of Leica’s online activities such as the communication measures for the Oskar Barnack Award. The focus is the new website, which was completely redesigned this year.

Q: The redesigned website for the awards looks great! What was the goal behind the makeover?

A: The most important aspect of the Oskar Barnack Award are the images submitted by the candidates so we focused the redesign on showcasing them. You can see the first image of every submitted series directly on the starting page now. This photo mosaic keeps growing and growing (scroll down to see the stream of entries!). The website is more dynamic and lively. It will never look the same because it constantly changes with each submission. After clicking on an image you can follow the whole story that the photographer tells through his/her 12 images.

Additionally, it serves as the hub of news and updates about the award. We will provide information about the latest developments, including movie teasers about the upcoming events such as the jury session in April and the winner ceremony in Arles, France, among others.

Furthermore, it was important to us that the website work on every device. It’s optimised for smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad.

Q: In 2009 the competition was moved online. How has the online submission process evolved over that time?

A: Since we moved the competition online the number of entries has increased every year. In the first year (2009) the number of entries increased threefold, then 2010, it increased once more to a total number of 1,700 entries from 79 different countries. In 2011 the total number was over 2,000 entries from 89 different countries.

Q: What do you attribute last year’s record-breaking results to? Do you think that the number of entries will surpass last year’s number?

A: We shall see. I think the new website will contribute to this year’s number of submissions. Our hope is that more photographers will feel inspired by the good work of other photographers whose images are shown in the online gallery.

It’s also great to see that the images of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award participants are on a very high level. The Newcomer Award Category is still very young, having been introduced only three years ago. We have contacted a diverse group of photo universities and schools, as well as photo agencies, to make the newcomer award more public.

Besides that, we feature the Oskar Barnack Award through all our media channels like the blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo as well as the Leica Newsletter and the corporate website.

Q: What are the image requirements when people submit their photos?

A: Photographers should submit a series of 12 photos that capture and express the relationship between man and the environment with acute vision and contemporary visual style – creative, groundbreaking and unintrusive. It can be a very wide field of subjects, from traditional reportage photography to very emotional, sensitive, fine art subjects. At least one of the submitted pictures in each series has to have been taken in 2011.

From the image editing point of view, all images must be stored with 72dpi in JPG format in the RGB color space for viewing on the web. They must be 1200 pixels high and have the maximum file size of 3 MB. Detailed instructions are available on the website in English, German, French and Spanish.

Q: Being behind-the-scenes of the award, what makes it so special to you?

A: Seeing that so many different professional photographers and newcomers from all over the world are participating is amazing. Last year we had participants from 89 countries and visitors to the website from 111 countries.

It’s great to be able to contribute to an international highly regarded award like this. Above all, I’m happy not to be on the jury and have to choose the best series from over 2,000 entries.

A very emotional and special moment is when we call the winner to inform him/her of winning the award. I will recommend that we should record this and show it on the website too.

Q: Last year the eight finalists were featured in a special edition of LFI which was new. Can the finalists expect something similar this year?

A: Yes, we will once again publish a special edition together with LFI and it will present the work of the winners and finalists.

Q: There is a quite an interesting jury that has been assembled this year. Who is on it?

We are very happy to have this group of international jury members for this year’s competition and are grateful for their support.

The members of this year’s jury include: Bruce Gilden, Magnum photographer, Stephan Erfurt, Director of C/O Berlin, Valérie Fougeirol, Creative Director of the Magnum Gallery in Paris, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Artistic Director of the Leica Galerie in Salzburg and Brigitte Schaller, Art Director of Leica Fotografie International magazine.

Q: What advice do you have for potential entrants?

A: The focus should be on a good editing of the entry. That means there should be a consistent quality starting with image #1 and ending with the last image.

Q: There is one contest rule that seems to cause confusion, “the photos I am entering are neither photomontage nor have been manipulated or digitally altered in its essence.” Can you please clarify and explain the spirit of this rule?

A: Simply put this means “replacing or placing of an object/person/thing that originally was not in the image” is not allowed. Typical darkroom effects (e.g. color corrections) are allowed.

Q: Is there anything else about the 2012 Oskar Barnack Award or its redesigned website that you’d like to share?

A: Yes, I would just like to say a special thanks to my colleagues who were involved in different parts (IT, Marketing, etc.) concerning the new website and also the agency SiteSeeing that has developed it.

Thank you Barbara!

-Leica Internet Team

See the redesigned website to view recent entries and submit yours at www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com. The terms and conditions are available here: www.leica-oskar-barnack-preis.com.